Quicklist of game
(requested by Gameboomers members)
to Riven - exploration-based with puzzles geared towards opening new
areas of exploration.
Hybrid CD -
works with either Windows or Mac.
point-and-click QuickTime interface.
sequences or action-based puzzles.
with other characters in the game.
The game begins
with a QuickTime movie. You arrive in RHEM via rail car. Through the
window of your rail car you take note of the passing scenery as you
journey into RHEM. You travel through a strange landscape with clear,
aqua-colored pools of water and strange, tall rock formations with
rounded tops that appear to be volcanic in origin. You pass a wrecked
rail car by the side of the tracks. A safety bar lifts up as your car
approaches the gate to RHEM. A circular bridge area rotates, aligning
the rails to allow your car to cross over a canal. Finally your car
passes through the gate, the rail car stops, and the game itself starts.
The image now takes up about 80% of your computer screen and you are
free to move about the world of RHEM. The object of the game is to
escape from RHEM and, in the process, discover what you can about why
RHEM was created and why you find things to be in the state they are in.
RHEM is a deserted
place. It reminded me of nothing so much as a large power plant
facility. Most of the game is outdoors, with a few maintenance buildings
you'll need to check out. The only living creature you meet in RHEM is a
young man who you see briefly in a cut scene. He explains how he's been
trapped in RHEM for so long and he's so sorry but he's desperate to get
out. Then he steals your rail car and you are left to find another way
out of RHEM.
So you are
marooned in RHEM. Alone. And the only living thing in RHEM is yourself.
There are no trees, no birds, no insects, not a single blade of grass -
not even algae in the water as far as I could tell. For me, this was one
of the main differences between RHEM and Riven. RHEM is not a beautiful
world. It is functional - like a power plant.
RHEM could be
compared to a large, open maze. Much of the game is concerned with
figuring out how to get to places you can see, but can not yet access.
RHEM is full of mechanical puzzles - levers, switches, and various
controls which you must figure out how to operate by observing things
around you - symbols on the walls, various kinds of switchboxes that
yield clues, color patterns, maps, etc. There are lots of symbols to
draw and lots of codes to decipher. Unless you have a phenomenal memory,
you'll need to take a lot of notes. RHEM is by no means an easy game,
but it is logical. The puzzles are well thought out and there are no
There is a vast
gameworld to explore and you need to explore [i]all[/i] of it before you
can solve the game and leave RHEM. You wander around. You find controls
which allow you to open gates or rotate walkways. You drain or flood
areas to gain access to new locations. Sometimes controls are located at
very inconvenient locations. In one place, I had to close a door via
some controls, then traverse almost half the gameworld to discover a
ladder to a new area was attached to the other side of the door. A sense
of direction certainly helps in RHEM. Alas, mine is not what it should
be. There is a truly magnificent map of the entire gameworld of RHEM on
a UK website that Google found for me. I only wish I'd found it before I
played the game. As it was, I floundered through the game not knowing
whether I was facing North, South, East, or West, but finding my way by
As you work your
way through the game you eventually find a message from someone who
spent some time in RHEM. You learn that if you are able to reassemble 4
parts of a message, you will be allowed to leave RHEM to deliver the
message. That's what that rectangle under the game screen is about. As
you discover the 4 parts of the message, they automatically fit into the
rectangle. It's as much inventory as you get in this game.
The single CD
version allows a full install to the hard drive. However you still need
the CD in the drive to start the game. It is a hybrid CD and will play
on either a Windows PC or a Mac. Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, and XP are
listed as compatible.
RHEM has the
unusual feature of offering both an automatic and a manual install. The
manual install is fairly easy - just copy a folder to your hard drive
for the basic install - or two folders if you want to do the full
install. If you want the full install, you have to copy the data folder
to the hard drive manually, whether you use the automatic installer or
the manual install for the game. The instructions for the full install
are near the end of the Readme on the CD.
RHEM has an
install for English, French, and German versions.
The graphics are
sharp and detailed, but somewhat grainy. I was impressed by the variety
of detail in some of the images - rusted railings, weathered stone and
wood, the interplay of light and shadow where the sun shines through a
fence and hits the irregular surface of the pathway. For a game that was
originally an independent game made by one person (artist Knut Mueller),
the graphics are amazing. They are of course less impressive when
compared to games developed by large companies, like Syberia was with
Microids. But they are more than adequate to convey a realistic idea of
The Readme advises
changing your desktop settings to 640x480 and 16-bit color before
starting the game and warns you that problems may occur in the animation
movies if you try to run the game in 32-bit color. If you don't change
your settings, the game will "remind" you when you try to start it.
minimal. Usually they are only present to accompany actions you take in
the game. For example when you pull a switch, you see the switch move
and hear it creak. Other animations include water coming from a pipe,
which you have to turn off at some point in the game. The water in the
pools and canals around RHEM is not normally animated. When you do see
an animation, it is actually a clue that something can probably be done
Sound effects are
very good overall. Background sounds do a good job of setting the mood.
When you start the game, there is no sound other than the wind blowing
and an occasional clank, creak, thump, whirr, or other mechanical noise
echoing in the distance. One environmental sound included an ominous
low-pitched noise that I couldn't identify. In other areas, such as
while crossing the bridge near the reservoir, I heard what sounded like
a distant piano - or was it the sound of water. Whatever it was, it
suited the mood and the feeling of isolation in RHEM.
QuickTime 4 or higher and movement is point-and-click, much the same as
in other QuickTime games. Moving the cursor around the screen makes it
change according to what actions can be taken. There is a listing for
"Cursor" on the menu screen which you can select to show illustrations
of the various cursor types and the movement associated with them.
There is an option
in the menu for changing the speed of transitions. But since transitions
are mainly dissolves into the next screen rather than movies that show
your actual movement, I didn't find much use for transitions. So I set
them to the fastest setting for instant gratification.
There is no "zap
mode" or anything like one. In a way it would have defeated the purpose
of the game. But I would have appreciated it when I was working on the
radar field puzzle and had to do all that backtracking because of the
There are keyboard
hotkeys for Open menu, Close menu, Save, Load, and Quit. But most of the
game is controlled by the mouse. The menu appears during the game as a
toolbar at the top of the screen, similar to the toolbar that appeared
in the original Myst game. You can load, save, etc. through the toolbar
as well as by using the hotkeys.
between the single CD version and the earlier 3-CD version
Both versions are
hybrid CD's and work on either Mac or PC. The full install did not work
properly on the 3-CD version. It worked on the Mac, but not on the PC.
The only way to get the 3-CD version to play from the hard drive on the
PC was to use a CD emulation program. This problem has been corrected in
the single CD version.
Note for those
with the 3-CD version - RHEM will look for data on all your CD drives,
including virtual CD drives. So to avoid disc swapping you can put a
different RHEM CD in each of your CD drives if you have more than one.
And if you're using a CD emulation program, you can load images of the 3
CD's on 3 separate virtual drives to play completely from the hard
The single CD
version has subtitles for the speech during the cut scene. The 3-CD
version did not.
In the 3-CD
version, one of the listings on the save/load screen was in German in
the English version of the game. This has been corrected in the
looked the same to me on the single CD version as on the 3-CD version.
Playing on the slower PII 266 computer, I sometimes noticed static when
I clicked forward. This didn't happen with the 1.2 GHz Athlon and I
don't remember it happening on the PII 266 with the 3-CD version. I
suspect it's due to the sound files being compressed on the single CD
version and the PII 266 not being quite able to cope with the
decompressing situation seamlessly.
The minimum specs
listed for the game (as listed in the Readme) are
Windows 95, 98,
2000, ME, XP
PC with 300 MHz or
32 MB of free RAM
25 MB free hard
disk space (minimal) or 650 MB (full installation)
12x CD-ROM drive
16-bit (thousands of colors)
QuickTime 4 for
Windows or higher
200 MHZ or faster
system 8.5.1 - 9.2
/ OS X Classic
32 MB free RAM
25 MB free
640 x 480 display,
16-bit-color (thousands of colors)
12x CD-ROM drive
Rhem QuickTime 4
Win 98 SE
PII 266 MHz
320 MB RAM
17 GB hard drive
4.8X DVD drive
(from the ROTS CD)
SB AWE 32 sound
Matrox Mystique 8
MB video card
Win 98 SE
Athlon 1.2 GHz
512 MB RAM
15 GB partition
48X CD drive
(from the Bioscopia CD)
Fortissimo II sound card
ATI Radeon 8500
128 MB video card
The game was
really quite perky on the PII 266 with a full install, even though the
processor speed was a little below the listed minimum spec. The main
differences I noted between playing on the PII 266 as opposed to the
Athlon were the previously noted static when clicking forward (which was
minimized by changing Direct Sound to Wave Out under Sound Out in the
QuickTime settings) and a slight hesitation of a second or two at the
places in the game where there was a CD change in the original 3-CD
version. Neither of these flaws appeared when the game was run on the
faster computer. I had one crash to desktop when I was playing the 3-CD
version - at a point where there was a CD change. I had no crashes at
all with the single CD version. Considering how many hours I spent with
this game, I consider it very stable - on Win 98 SE anyway.
RHEM and Riven
RHEM has some
similarities to Riven. Both feature mechanical puzzles, a large
gameworld, and a similar system of navigation. In RHEM the main
attraction is its puzzles. Riven also has puzzles, but it also has a
living gameworld, full of plant life, creatures like the sunners, and a
human population with a cultural history. Riven has incidental music in
some game locations that heightened the mystery surrounding those
locations. RHEM has no music. There was also the creepy feeling that
you'd get while playing Riven when you found things like the hangman
mobile in the school. There was nothing particularly creepy about RHEM.
It was deserted, but there was no evidence that anything bad had ever
happened there. I didn't get the same feeling of mystery in RHEM that I
got in Riven.
I found RHEM to be
a nice change from certain recent adventure games that have dumbed down
the puzzles and thrown in action or timed sequences in an attempt to
attract a wider game audience. At first I was disappointed by the lack
of plant and animal life that was present in games like Myst and Riven.
But as I got involved with solving the puzzles, I didn't notice that so
much. RHEM isn't really a game for sightseeing, but it held my interest
better than most other recent adventures.
RHEM is an
excellent game for those who are primarily interested in the puzzles.
Gamers who want a mental challenge will certainly find one in RHEM. I'd
give RHEM top marks for what it sets out to be - an intricate
exploration-type adventure full of mechanical puzzles.
Gamers who want to
interact with other characters in their adventures won't find any here.
The plot is minimal, similar to the plot in Myst in that it's usually in
the background while exploration and solving the puzzles is the focus of
the game. So people who want a story-driven game may wish to look
elsewhere for their entertainment.
If I was going to
rate it, I'd say 4½ out of 5, with the understanding that not everyone
is going to like this type of game - not just because of the absense of
characters but because of the sterility of the gameworld (compared to
games like Myst and Riven).
Overall Grade: A-
copyright © 2003